Soren scanned the orks that surrounded him and his friends.
Winning such a fight would involve beating insurmountable odds. Not that he hadn’t done such a thing before, this time, however, the odds were even more against them.
After recovering from the shake of finding a Shadow in their midst, the orks turned to the group and began closing them in. Their exits were sealed – there was no way out.
Soren tightened his grip on the sword in his hand. A sword that burned orks would certainly be helpful in this situation.
Leondrea and Maya’s hands rested on their own weapons as they moved, attempting to inconspicuously surround Aryia – the only one in their group who didn’t know how to fight.
As they prepared for the worst, Karkog knelt down before the ork lord.
He said something that Soren couldn’t quite understand, but he understood enough – Karkog was offering himself up for execution.
As the ork lord began to reply, Leondrea interrupted him.
Karkog glared back at her, growling in his native language.
Leondrea shouted back before looking to the ork lord and saying something else in a respectful tone.
The ork lord looked to Karkog, then to Leondrea. He certainly wasn’t happy. He took in a deep breath, let out a sigh, then waved his hand. Soren assumed his next words meant, “So be it.”
Leondrea stepped forward and dragged Karkog to his feet. As she pulled him back to the rest of the group, the ork lord returned to his throne.
“The prisoners will be kept safe?” Leondrea asked in Shelezar.
The ork lord leaned his head to the side. “I am a man of my word.”
“We may well return this way once our journey is over – we will take them with us then.”
The ork lord nodded. “Very well. The hour grows late, perhaps you would like some lodging?”
Leondrea looked to her compatriots before replying – Soren nodded; he wasn’t aware how the others responded. “That would be nice.”
“I will have a private barracks prepared – for now, accompany me to my meal hall.”
The ork stood from his throne and made his way out of the room. The group followed him down several corridors before coming to a large room with two long tables. He invited them to sit next to him as they ate and he asked them what they knew of the island so far – while the rest of his orks were born here, he was of only a handful that became stranded on the island long ago. The only ones that remained who had arrived when he did either died in battle or went their own way.
Soren recounted his excursion into the temple near Ortus and the information he’d gained from speaking with Arakim.
After eating, they went to the private barracks, where beds had been prepared and laid down to sleep.
As Soren laid awake, he thought back to when he’d fought the orks invading the small village near Ingaard – one of the stories he’d told Aryia when he’d first arrived on the island.
He stood near the back of the ranks during that battle – it was his first time ever seeing an ork in person.
Ishmere and Delmore stood on the front lines, alongside Tyrell and Lairus the Red. It was in that battle Lairus got the scar that stretched his entire torso.
In fact, all those on the front lines sustained injuries that should have proven fatal – and many of the knights and militiamen died, their guts spilled out on the ground, or drowning in pools of their own blood.
Despite nearly half the militia falling that battle, only one of those in the Imya’s crew fell – a young lad who was told to stay in the back with Soren. Soren hadn’t known orkish tactics then, but he at least knew his way around a sword. The young lad – Targin was his name – barely knew how to fight. But he was determined that by sheer force of will he’d survive and that he’d prove himself one of the best combatants in the group. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
He’d charged to the front lines as soon as the battle broke out. He left the formation that the crew – along with the knights and militia – had decided on before the battle. He was not the first to die – but he was the most brutally killed.
When the crew held his funeral, they had to put his parts in a box – incapable of laying his body to rest on the pyre.
For several years after that, Soren assumed orks to be nothing but mindless savages, seeking only to kill. That was the only time the crew had taken on a full horde, but many times after that, they would take on small detachments, each one just as brutal as the last. It wasn’t until quite recently that he discovered orks were just as smart as humans. It wasn’t until recently that he’d discovered they could be just as civilized and merciful as humans and simply chose not to.
Previous to learning that fact, his view on them was a dismissive one, believing that it was simply in their nature. Just as a man does not hate an crocodile for seeking out food, he did not hate orks for pillaging human settlements. He would defend against them, sure, and relish in their death. But he didn’t hate them.
Then, his crew met with a more civilized horde. One that had done away with many of the savage ways of the orks he’d met in the past. A horde that had done away with the traditions and moral code given to the orks by the giants in ages long past.
That was when he learned better. That the orks were not to be merely dismissed as mindless beings following an unbreakable nature. That the orks, which held to the idea that they needed to kill without mercy and even kill their own should they become injured, were to be hated. A hate which burned Soren to his core.
A hate that extended to the orks which Skullcrusher ripped apart in the cave.
A hate that had originally extended to the orks in the castle.
A hate that painfully subsided with each act of kindness and mercy the orks of the castle extended to him. That extended to so many more than just orks. That his own religion told him to be rid of. That would be more difficult to let go of than anything.
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